Photo: Merkle Connect
Brands have a lot of catch-up work to do on Facebook and Twitter.Merkle Connect, which launches today, wants to help these brands get up to speed. The company — spun off the traditional marketing firm Merkle — goes beyond analytics, by tracking consumers’ (who agree to let the firm follow their email addresses) online activity.
“There was definitely a rush to social without a lot of thought behind how to [integrate it] into marketing strategy,” says Rich Fleck, who heads the 10-member Merkle offshoot. “What we’re seeing now isn’t a change in consumer behaviour. Consumers have always been social. We can just [market] to scale now.”
The goal, he says, is to move away from the “social as a mass media” attitude, and instead leverage it to craft tailored marketing campaigns, geared toward distinct segments of the consumer base previously impossible to separate. Reaching engaged consumers requires a different approach than reengaging a quieter customer.
For now, Merkle Connect is focusing on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Consumers agree to terms and conditions that allow their social media identities and information to be shared with brands, and then the program delivers those profiles to its clients, which include Dell and Aetna.
As social networking sites like Facebook have evolved, users have complained about privacy. And now that marketers and companies are explicitly using these sites to gather user data, both should expect some backlash.
As marketers dig into social media to find and target customers, it’s up to consumers to keep private any information they want hidden. The protection that users, the websites, and firms like Merkle share is that consumers must grant permission for services like Merkle Connect to view and share users’ information. So how, exactly, does this happen? When users visit a brand’s page and are prompted to sign in with their Facebook account, terms listed as part of that pop-up cover the conditions of the login, which for example can include cataloging the email address attached to the account and collecting demographic information.
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